When I am in the groove, I am strong. But inevitably, whether it’s vacation, a certain time of year, or stress, I will gain weight. That’s normal; we all do it, to a point.

But there’s a line best not crossed, and when I’m on the wrong side of that line, my mind lets in bad thoughts. I deal with two issues when I have gained enough to make my clothes tight or, as in my current case, up a size in clothing.

The first is body dysmorphia. When I am within a mentally acceptable weight range, I have a pretty accurate idea of my size. The mirror agrees with my mind. All is well, even if I’m pushing hard to move forward. And mind you, I remember being at this weight when I was passing through on the way down, and my mind was well on the way to accepting my changed body.

But when I pass out of a given weight range, those demons start whispering in my ear. I already know I’ve gained weight, but they try to convince me I’ve gained so much that I might as well give up. That I’m as big as I ever was, which realistically, I know is far from true. In part, that probably happens to me because I have regained so much weight, in the past, that I gave up and put on more than I ever lost to that point in time. I may be able to brag I’ve lost 70 pounds, but I regained 100 after that. I lost 140 pounds, only to gain 180. The echoes of those regressions can occasionally be heard.

Which way?

It’s times like these that I have to remind myself that I need to cut myself a break. Dysmorphia, for me, is the result of an emotional response instead of an objective one. Objectively, I should be determining the issue, the reasons the issue occurred, and exploring ways to solve the issue. And usually, I can do that pretty well. I’ve long advocated for being a scientist on my own behalf, and as such, I should be analytical rather than reactive.

When I’m not, it’s a stage of losing control; reacting emotionally instead of analyzing. Left unchecked, it triggers the next stage: imposter syndrome.

If we’re looking through clear glass at someone else, we’re willing to cut them a break and see them as the beautiful beings they are, even if they’re not perfect. But if that glass is a mirror, all bets are off. I know I’m incredibly harsh with myself, and that deceptive demon whispers to me that I’m a fraud. That I have failed, and am failing. That those who never had faith in my ability to work hard enough to change my life were right, after all.

The imagined whispers of defeat take over when it’s my own brain bouncing that idea around, like lyrics to a song that you can’t get out of your head. The reactive emotion is to take to find comfort in food. To cry that it’s not fair that I have to keep fighting the same rounds of gain and loss that I always have.

Choosing that path — or allowing it to get out of hand — leads straight to actual failure. And I refuse to let that happen.

Most of us hope we can just go on a diet, drop the poundage we want, and go back to our old habits, as if making the effort to diet permanently fixes what got us there in the first place. For people like me, though, we can’t just diet. We have to make permanent changes. I accepted the truth of that long ago, and I know well enough what the consequences are when I choose to deviate from the norm for myself.

Today, I choose to ignore the constant thrum of old failures and accept where I am at this moment, as well as what it will take to achieve the results I want. Don’t give me your sympathy, please; I’m quite happy to have learned enough about myself to know when to put on the brakes and change direction.

Unlike times in the past, I won’t let everything I’ve fought for slip away.

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